I was in midtown Manhattan in my TV training studio, my presentation skills training studio, right-t across from Bryant Park. one day I had a group of people at one of my public workshops. One of them was a woman who had been a political operative. She had some low-level physicians in campaigns. The Clinton administration wanted to become a pundit, came to the media training course put the camera on her. She asked her a few questions. She started talking for about 10 seconds. All of a sudden stopped, looked down, stepped back. I cannot do this practically in tears. She just seemed overwhelmed. I had a little bitty camera. There were only a few people in the room. She was nervous. She was uncomfortable and was frankly not very good at it. But I encourage her “Come on. Let’s do it one more time. Let’s do it again.” We kept on doing it again and again. She even came back for follow-up training.
Before you know it occasionally she was a guest commentator on the CNN, MSNBC’s the Fox News, Channels of the world. A major TV news networks in the United States based in New York City she occasionally would get on and then she got better. She got more comfortable. She got on more off and then more off. Then one of the major news networks, in fact the top-rated news network hired her as a professional analyst. So every single time she went on the air. She was paid and after a while she was actually hosting in primetime substitute. Hosting for some of the biggest names in the business and she was on that network for a decade. She since moved on to other major networks and continues to have column books the whole bit. She is a major pundit. It is simply because she decided she wanted to know. One initially anointed her, no one says “Oh we want to hire you as a TV network, here is a bunch of money go get trained.” She decided herself that she did not want to just be behind the scenes work in the back rooms. Be the behind-the-scenes operator. She wanted to have a voice on national affairs. She wanted to speak out and she took action. It did not matter that she was not very good at the beginning. She just she kept at it and it got professional training for me. Others critique learned as she went and worked her way up the media food chain. She did it you could too.
So why do I tell that story again? There is this sense. So many people have that when you see someone on TV, some famous pundit, some famous talking head that they are just naturally fantastic. They have been that way; their whole life they were the coolest kid in middle school. Always articulate. There is something people can learn and virtually any age. So that is why I tell that story .
It is amazing! I went into the career I did because certainly there was nothing in my grade school education to prepare me. For this, in fact it discouraged me from speaking. I went to Starmount elementary public elementary school in Charlotte North Carolina. There was a huge premium on not talking this. ‘Do not talk’ in the bathroom, ‘Do not talk’ in the hallway, ‘Do not talk’ at lunch believe it or not. So we were told not to talk in the classroom unless it was a specific time. If a teacher addressed, you so I remember once.
I was in second grade. Mrs. Smith’s class and she said “OK class! Put your books away. Put your pencils away. We are now going to focus on science.” Or whatever the topic was and I saw my buddy next to me. He did not hear that. He was still reading away, writing. I said “Hey Billy! The teacher said we got to put our books away” it is before I could finish she said “Little Timmy! What are you doing? Are you talking?” Guess what? “Here is your punishment I told you not to talk in class. Your punishment is you have to write every single word in the spelling book 50 times now.” That was a little goody two-shoes anyway in class. I was already a pretty quiet kid but this was like a death sentence. 20 years later I would not finish writing every single word in the spelling book 50 times. Thankfully my mother who was a great mom and a great champion of mine went to the school, went to the teacher. She said to the teacher, “This is ridiculous all he was doing was telling his friend time to do something else.” She got me a reprieve. I did not have to write every word 50 times.
What is the point here? I think the point is you need to be careful especially with young people. But even if it is an executive in your company or organization about too much negativity. Tell someone “Oh that is a whole speech. It is so boring you could scar them for life you could convince people. Speaking is not for me. I should not do that fortunately. I did not let that experience scar me. But I do remember it was almost 50 years later. So be careful when you try to snap out someone’s interest in speaking, presenting, talking. It can leave scars
OK so why do I tell that story again? I just try to get people a sense of who I am. A little background. I do not use this story that often but sometimes when I am doing a to date workshop with someone. They want to go more in depth who I am experiences I have. It gives them a little more flavor of who I am and my general approach to teaching people. My approach is very positive. I stress here is what you are doing well. Let’s do more of it. I do not let people just attack themselves. I do not just come in and tell them everything that is wrong or boring so. It is about the general approach of positive. Do not try to stamp out someone’s enthusiasm by giving them a lot of criticism.